This is actually a report from the Safari Zoo Run, back on Feb. 17. Better late than never? Since the Commenters on my most recent race report (URun 2013) indicated that they wanted to hear about everything in a race, from logistics and organization, to port-a-potty reviews and hydration options, to how I felt during every mile of the race…there will be lots of details here. Enjoy! [Or click away now, if you prefer. I’ll never really know…]
The back of the race shirt. Look closely at the “O”s. Cool, huh?
This race is held annually at the Singapore Zoo, and is dedicated the zoo’s beloved orangutan (proper pronunciation: orang-utan), Ah Meng. She had been smuggled into Singapore from Indonesia, and in 1971 was rescued by a veterinarian and turned over to the zoo. She gained huge popularity there, and became the zoo’s “poster child”, starring in promotional materials and meeting dignitaries, until her death in 2008. The race is in her memory, and serves as a fundraiser for the Singapore Zoo (this year, it raised over $100,000 SGD).
The options for this race were a Competitive 12K Run or a 6K Fun Run. When we signed up in December, I didn’t fully understand the difference. Mostly, I just wanted a chance to check out the race, and drag KMN to the zoo. [Race entry was $46 SGD, and included zoo admission on race day ($22 SGD value). Whoo!] We signed up for the 6K Fun Run. The advantage was that the Fun Run started at 10 AM (compared to the 7AM start for the 12K). Sweet! The disadvantage was that the Fun Run was not officially timed. No worries – that’s what a Garmin is for, anyway!
Thanks to the timing of Chinese New Year, packet pick-up was fully 2 weeks before the race:
Shirt, hat, cereal. CEREAL!!!! Not shown: Small towel and reusable shopping bag.
KMN also scooped a pair of his favorite Brooks sneakers at the mini-expo – a previous season’s style that were on sale. Sneakers are expensive out here, so this was a great deal. Whoot!
Now, here is my Public Service Announcement for anyone going to a race packet pick-up at Velocity (we’ve already done two there): Avoid going mid- to late-afternoon on Saturday, or be prepared to wait. This is when the line seems to back-up the longest. Unfortunately, the packet pick-up tables are squeezed into the center of the mall, and there really isn’t enough space for volunteers to work. They do the best they can, and keep the line moving, but lots of participants + not much space for vollies to move around, get packets, etc. = some waiting time. Plan ahead, leave yourself enough time, and go early, late, or on Sunday – which generally seems to be the less busy day.
There was also a bit of a hubbub about the substitution of a small towel in place of a stuffed animal in the packets. I can’t verify what was promised, and frankly…I don’t care. I’ve been over this before, but I’ll say it again: When I sign up for a race, I figure most of the money is going to race production. Goodies are (mostly) a bonus – for me. I know Singaporeans feel otherwise, and lots of people made a stink and felt “gypped” without the stuffed animal. That’s their prerogative, but I’m going to be a little judgmental here: Get over it, folks. If you really signed up for the stuffed toy…it would’ve been cheaper just to buy the toy. You’re still getting shirt, hat, towel, cereal, and zoo entry. OH…and a race, too. Sheesh. *steps off soapbox*
So, when race morning rolled around, we reveled in our 10 AM start time by sleeping in a bit, then donned our race shirts (I know, I just made a point about how I don’t wear race shirts for races over 5K. But this was 6K. And a fun run. So I did it.), and hopped on a bus to the zoo:
We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo. How about you, you, you? You can come too, too, too! We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo!
The zoo is a bit out of the city (duh), so there’s only one bus route that actually runs there. While waiting for our transfer, I found this guy:
He was trying to get to Sentosa for a beach day. I helped explain the bus schedules to him.
We hopped on the second bus, and I couldn’t help but crack up. This was a regular city bus, but it was full of race participants, and race participants only – a sea of red Safari Run shirts. We were in good company! Also? Three cheers for public transport. I think the parking situation for the 6K runners was a bit hairy – because many of the 12K runners were still at the zoo, and some of the parking lot was closed for the race rally, parking was pretty limited. People were being forced to park along the road, over a mile from the start, and walk in. The bus got caught in this traffic for a short time, but thankfully our driver made his way through it, and we were delivered steps away from the baggage drop ~40 minutes before the start.
We checked our bags (there was NO line), scoped out the scene, found the finish line, cheered for a Kid’s Race that was happening between the 12K and 6K, then made our way to the port-a-potties. I, for once, didn’t have to go. KMN did, but when I asked him for the p-a-p report, the entirety of his report was: *shrug* “Fine, I guess.” Sorry, folks. I’ll be sure to have a look for myself next time.
By this time, lots of people had already filled the Starting Chute. We got very lucky, and were snuck in near the front by a generous volunteer, who opened the gate a smidge. We squeeeeezed in – and trust me, it was cozy. We were thankful that the morning was overcast – a sunny 10 AM start could be a very warm race. But the cloud-cover helped a lot, as did the surrounding forest. I’d say temps at the start were probably 75°F/24°C, plus humidity.
Question: Why do race organizers think it’s a good idea to get a few people (usually from a local gym) on stage to do a “warm up” before the race??? [This is not Singapore-specific, by the way. I just think it’s stupid.]
1. Doing anything but your “regular” warm-up before you race is pretty dumb. HEY YEAH! Let me do all these things I don’t usually do before I run a big race. Duh. Please see: Don’t do anything different on race day, in this post.
2. Even if I wanted to follow your moves, I have approximately no space. My elbow would be in my husband’s face, my foot in the groin of the fellow behind me, if I hop I’ll probably land on someone else’s foot, and if I bend over…yep, no way.
We did do a wave, though, from the Start Line to the back. That was kinda fun, until it died. And then, we were off! It took us about 90 seconds to actually cross the Start Line, and that’s when I started my Garmin.
My goal for the race (remember, this run actually preceded this past weekend’s 10K) was to get a feel for my speed. I’ve been mostly base-building my mileage, without much speedwork, so I really wasn’t sure what my aerobic system – and my IT band – would think of a faster pace. This race was a test. I was hoping to hold my pace under 8 min/miles, and see what happened.
The first half-mile ran through the parking lot, and had several tight turns. With so many runners packed together, this was tricky to navigate. The route was bounded by temporary metal gates (whose legs actually stuck into the path, not such a wise idea from a safety perspective), and we weaved our way through the masses. No one had lined up in any kind of order, so we were dodging around walkers, kids, and parents walking backwards trying to take pictures of their kids (there was a parent/child team option). I’ll admit, I found this totally aggravating. It’s totally normal in the US, too – but for goodness’ sake…if you plan on walking, start at the back. I told myself to relax, and to take whatever the race gave – if it ended up being a slow jaunt through the parks, so be it.
But after about half a mile, we entered the Night Safari, through the entry turnstiles and onto the tram path – and I finally understood why we had such a long, windy jaunt through the parking lot: We had to separate a bit before hitting the turnstile, or else there would’ve been a major back-up. I’m sure the route-planners did their best, but the turnstiles seem like a pretty silly inclusion on a race route, though. KMN and I have been to the Night Safari several times – but always at night (obviously), and never walking on the tram paths (normally prohibited).
The tram path widened, and by that time I was closer to the front of the pack, so running was slightly easier. Running past all the animals was pretty neat – although they didn’t always agree. This is probably the only time in my life that I had the opportunity to see an elephant throw poop at a race participant (true story). We all had a good chuckle, and ran on.
Finally, between three-quarters of a mile and a mile into the race, magic happened, and everything opened up. The feeling was so strange – peoplepeoplepeople…then…no one. I felt like I was completely on my own. I cruised up some mild but persistent inclines and headed out of Night Safari and into the Zoo via some sneaky side path at just about 1.5 miles. The Zoo section was a bit flatter, and still totally devoid of runners.
KMN, mid-race. He claims he’s trying to give the photographer the “OK” sign. ?? Photo Credit: Running Shots
The Zoo must have already opened for the day, because there were actually some visitors wandering about! This could have been annoying – and may have gotten tricky as a steadier flow of runners came through – but for me, it was fine. Although I did feel like people were looking at me, “What is that white girl doing, running like crazy through here? Doesn’t she want to see the animals??” No, not really – I actually wanted to salvage my harder effort run. Once things had opened up, I realized I could pick up my pace, and clipped off the next 2 miles pretty tidily. I was happy to see paces under 8 min/mile coming up on my watch, and I kept my effort hard and steady, but not all-out.
I never really bought into that whole “the camera adds 10 lbs” thing…but this is a pretty unflattering photo. Also? I need a haircut. Photo Credit: Running Shots
I was sticking pretty well to my plan: Not running full-out, but running hard enough to get a workout. I stopped paying any attention to the animals – since we were planning to come back to the zoo at a more leisurely pace anyway – and focused on form and keeping my turnover high. When I got to the Pygmy Hippos, I knew (from my study of the map) that I was almost finished. I pushed a bit harder, rounded a few bends, and strained to hear the finish line that I knew had to be coming. Still nothing.
I’m not big on Finisher’s Medals – but these guys ARE pretty cute!
Turn, turn, turn…very steep (short, but steep) climb – kudos to the course designer for that one – and then whoops, there it was! Just like that, I was across the Finish Line. Ellen B., I missed hearing you on the microphone!! [I whispered to myself “You are a Pinnacle of Power!”, though, just for good measure. <–Fleet Feet Rochester Folks, you know what I mean!]
I collected my Finsher’s Medal and some water. KMN came through the Finish Line a few seconds later, and we spent five minutes wandering between the water table and the 100Plus (electrolyte drink) table, trying to rehydrate and cool down a bit. We headed over to baggage claim (again, no line), then planted ourselves on the curb for some further cooling down. And, of course, some post-race photos.
Overall, we enjoyed the race experience – it’s not every day you get to run through a zoo! The initial congestion was annoying, but once we got past that, the course was really open and easy to run and follow. I might suggest that the organizers encourage the parent/child teams, and walkers, to start at the back next time, though. This was definitely a kid-friendly event, with special kid’s races, snacks, entertainment, etc. I do appreciate a running event for all ages!!
As far as organization, everything seemed to be pretty smooth, except perhaps the parking situation (which we avoided). Signs were clear, baggage drop was easy, and port-a-potty lines were short. There were plenty of volunteers along the course, and 3 or 4 hydration points as well. The 12K course is actually just a double-loop of the 6K course – I’m not sure it would be as much fun the second time around, though. Overall, we had a good time, and it was a great bargain, since we used our bibs for admission to the zoo for the rest of the day (read about our day at the zoo in this post).
As far as a running event…I would recommend it 100% if you have kids. I’d also recommend it if you want to run through a neat location, and spend a day at the zoo. I also like the fact that it’s a fundraiser (many running events in Singapore aren’t). Personally, I can’t say this race is an absolute guarantee for me next year – especially if it’s held back-to-back with the URun race again – but if I’m looking for a fun run, and another chance for a zoo visit, I’d certainly consider it!
I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at my final splits and saw this:
Mile 1: 9:14 min/ mile
Mile 2: 7:40
Mile 3: 7:31
Final 0.55 Miles: 7:27
I’m going to give myself the benefit of the doubt on this one, and take the liberty to average the last 2.55 miles and call that my 5K race pace. Since I wasn’t racing all out, I’m going to assume I had another half mile at this pace left in me. Some may call this cheating, but it’s the best way I can figure to get an approximate 5K pace estimate, for my current fitness. [The congestion of the first mile makes that pace very unrepresentative of what I can actually run.] This works out to an Approximate Average Pace of 7:32 min/mile.
Given that I haven’t been doing much (any) speed work, I’m actually pretty happy with this number. It’s more than a minute per mile off my PR pace, but that’s OK. I’m a patient girl. And next weekend, I’ll have a shot at an actual 5K race at the Venus Run 2013. And after 3 races in Singapore, I may finally be learning something. Note to Self: From now on, be pushier. Start closer to the front. Self: Roger that.
We’ll see what happens next weekend!!
Am I the only one who gets baffled/annoyed by “organized” pre-race warm-ups?
Have you ever raced in/through a really unusual place (like a zoo)?